Here at Invisible Cities, there are two stars of the show: the UK cities featured on ourlist of UK tours and our incredible tour guides — all of which have experienced homelessness. Invisible Cities is a social enterprise that trains people to be tour guides. Anyone who has been homeless at some point in their life has a unique perspective on their city and our tours are unlike anything else you’re likely to find. Previously, we wrote abeginner’s guide to visiting York and we’d like to follow it up with this first-time visitor’s guide to Manchester. If anything in this guide inspires you, check out ourManchester Walking Tours.
Given the scale of the city and how difficult it is to drive in a city you don’t know very well, we can’t recommend driving around Manchester on your first visit — or any visit, to be honest. But the good news is that Manchester’s trains and buses are incredibly well managed, making it one of the most accessible cities in the UK for visitors to get around. Check outVisit Manchester’s maps if you’d like to learn more.
There are plenty of things to do in Manchester, but if your budget is tight, then make sure you put some of the city’s free museums to the top of your list. We won’t go through all 35 free museums here, but here are the three most popular options for your consideration.
Manchester Museum — This generalist museum on Oxford Road has a broad range of history, science, and culture. With 4 floors and 15 galleries to explore, make sure you reserve plenty of time for your visit.
Science and Industry Museum — This museum can be found on Liverpool Road and it’s a brilliant way to get the true feel for Manchester’s iconic industrialist origins.
Manchester Art Gallery — This gallery on Mosley Street is one of the city’s most popular attractions. With one of the best collections of art in the UK, this is a must-visit for art enthusiasts.
If you’re looking for a less conventional Manchester experience, then one of our tours is almost certainly for you. We train our guides but we also encourage them to bring their own personality and creativity to the tours they create. This means that our tours are very different from the more manufactured, manicured Manchester tours. You can read even more detail about ourManchester Tours, but here are brief overviews of why you might want to see Invisible Manchester.
Our guide, Andy, designed this excellent tour to explore Manchester’s rock music scene in the 80s. Visit the venues that epitomised the city’s legendary music scene. It’s not all history, however: you will learn about modern Manchester while, admiring the city’s skyline, as you learn about the people, places, and stories that shaped it.
This thoughtful tour was created by Danny, our adopted Mancunian tour guide who spent a portion of his life living on Manchester’s street. This tour offers a unique perspective on the city, showing you where Danny’s spent his time and teaching you about the grittier aspects of the city you won’t find on the more mainstream tours.
On this tour created by Laura — a transgender woman inspired by the city’s great women — you will learn about the inspirational women who have helped build and develop Manchester. The highlight for many on the tour is the discussion of Emmeline Pankhurst and the Suffragette movement, of which Manchester played a prominent role.
If Laura’s tour whets your appetite for Manchester’s suffragette past, you will almost certainly want to visit the Pankhurst Centre. While only a small museum, it is well worth visiting. Exhibiting the story and legacy of Emmeline Pankhurst and the Suffragette movement as a whole, this is the perfect place to pay your respects to one of the country’s biggest political activists and folk heroes. Entrance to the Pankhurst Centre is free, making it even more difficult to find a good reason not to visit!
There are, of course, so many excellent places to visit in Manchester, but the city is too vast and its history too rich to expect any first-time visitor to see everything. We hope we’ve inspired one or two readers to visit Manchester in the near future, and if you’d like to take one of Invisible Cities’ tours and have a few questions for us, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!
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